The "It's Not You, It's Me" Award
By Maura McAndrew | 11 December 2013
Kurt Vile :: Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze
How are you? I hear things are going really well for you. You’re playing bigger and bigger venues, and Matador is promoting you like crazy, and I think that’s great. Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze is going to make a lot of year-end lists. You should be proud. But let’s not beat around the bush: I think you should know that Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze won’t be making our year-end list here at CMG. Considering how we felt about Smoke Ring for My Halo (2011), that’s…kind of surprising, am I right? You may be particularly surprised to know it isn’t on my personal list either, since I’m such a big fan of yours.
That’s why I’m writing this letter, Kurt. I care about you, and I wanted to explain my recent behavior. I know it’s a cliché, but the truth is that it’s not you. It’s me. I can’t really explain why I don’t love Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze. Somehow the spark has gone out; the magic is no longer there. Maybe the songs are too long? Maybe it’s too jam-y? All I can say is that I’ve been listening to other records that move me more. I know it hurts to hear, but you have to remember that you’re still great. I’m completely to blame.
Just because I’m not in love with your music anymore doesn’t mean that what we had wasn’t special. I remember the first time I saw you in concert. It was right after Smoke Ring came out, and there weren’t too many people there. You were just hanging out in line waiting for a drink with the rest of us. I was wearing my homemade R.E.M. t-shirt and you were wearing a giant cardigan, remember? You played a great set. Mesmerizing—that’s how I would describe Smoke Ring to anyone who listened. Remember “Runner Ups”? That was the greatest song. I put it on repeat when I rode the city bus. And “Ghost Town.” And “Peeping Tomboy.” Those were great days for us, and I will always look back on them fondly.
This is not a backlash thing, Kurt. I know you’re getting more popular—who wouldn’t after an album like Smoke Ring? I noticed it when I saw you the second time. You were opening for Andrew Bird, and it was more expensive, but I went just to see you. And it sold out before my friends could get tickets, so I went alone. I bought your EP that night—So Outta Reach—and the Violator working the merch table told me that even he hadn’t heard it yet. So you see, I still cared. I was still committed. I even left before Andrew Bird came out.
Sometime between then and now, though, things have changed. I really was excited to get your new record. When I first heard “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day,” I was sure it was going to blow minds. Hell, I thought it would blow mine. But it didn’t. And I wish I could explain why, but really, I can’t. Perhaps we’ve grown apart. It’s just that when I put on your new record, I don’t feel the way I used to.
In closing: clearly, I’m an idiot. Pretty Daze is objectively a great record. Everyone who matters loves it, and there are many people out there who would be happy to spin it endlessly. So best of luck to you, Kurt. I know you’ll do great things, and you’ll get over this.